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Cateye Volt 300 front light

9
£49.99

VERDICT:

9
10
Excellent choice for commuters, with just about enough power for longer forays
Weight: 
134g
Contact: 
www.zyro.co.uk

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The Cateye Volt 300 is a really good single-LED light at a decent price. It has ample light output for riding around town and even some longer forays into the depths of countryside darkness. It's pretty light and yet built with the solidity that we expect from Cateye; you won't be worried about dropping it.

An unusual feature is the swappable battery cartridge. The whole back half of the light unscrews from the front and can be replaced with another battery (not included). This makes it a great choice for weekends away or long audaxes. You can buy a second battery for £20, but a better option (if you need longer autonomy) is to buy the light complete with the options kit which includes a spare battery, charging dock, helmet mount and charger cable. You can find this for about £60. Spare batteries are supplied with a plastic cap to avoid electrical shorting.

Having recently reviewed the more expensive LUU Pico380it was interesting to compare it with this compact light from Cateye. The Volt 300 is a similar size, slightly longer and slimmer than the LUU. With a claimed 300 lumens, the Cateye is also just into the territory of lights which are bright enough to see by with no other illumination. When riding dark roads that I knew well in the dry, I was comfortable at speeds of 30mph or so. On wet, unlit, unfamiliar roads with rain-lashed eyewear, I'd want more light for going quickly.

Dave reviewed the big brother Volt 1200 recently and liked it a lot. The beam comparisons are interesting (see our patented comparison engine below), as the Volt 1200 throws out a really wide beam which - to my mind - makes it great for off-road but less good for road riding. I've come to prefer narrower beams on the road, lighting up the bits I need to see without annoying other road users.

Around town the Volt 300 is a great option. There are four main modes which you scroll through by clicking the button: high, medium, low and hyper-constant. Hyper-constant has a continuous low-power illumination punctuated by much brighter flashes and works really well to ensure other road-users have spotted you. Double-click the button and you have a conventional flash mode (with just one speed). This uses less power than hyper-constant but in my experience it's not as visible in day-light either. Pleasingly, the Volt remembers which mode you were using when you power it on next time. Battery life is rated at three hours on high, increasing to as much as 60 hours on flash.

Inevitably real-world usage tends to be a mixture of modes, but the battery life seemed to match up to what was claimed. The power button illuminates when you've got 20% or less juice left. When the warning light came on, I found there was still plenty of time to get home (nearly an hour on full power, in fact). Some (generally more expensive) lights give you a multi-stage battery life indicator, rather than just warning you when it's getting low. However as long as you've got enough time left to get home once you have the warning, as here, I think this works fine.

Charging is via the increasingly ubiquitous micro USB connector, so almost any phone charger will do the trick. Cateye claim six hours charge time from empty, less if you use a mains USB charger rather than a PC port. The connector is located underneath the light, under a decent rubber bung. It's a good location, tucked away and protected from knocks and the elements.

A good bracket is a must for me to like a bike light. Unending battery life and huge illumination are as nothing if I get annoyed every time I put it on a bike. Cateye's Flex Tight bracket is a simple, well-proven and tool-free design and it's about perfect. It takes only a few seconds to put it on a bike, the quick-release is solid and reliable, there's no need for shims (which always get lost) if you want to put it on a 1in handlebar. You can also adjust the angle of the light one-handed while riding, just by slackening off the screw collar a little. Those with more than one bike may buy a bracket for each one, but even with only one bracket, it is really easy to move it from one bike to another.

Returning to the power button, atop the light, I did occasionally wish for an indicator that the light was on. Whereas some lights illuminate the power switch (often too brightly,so it etches patterns into your retinas as you ride) the Volt's power switch only lights up when the battery's dying. It's not a big deal; a quick wave of the hand in front is enough to see whether or not you remembered to switch it on.

The shape, relatively narrow beam and absence of weight make the Volt a good choice for a helmet light. As above, you can buy it with an options kit including a helmet mount for a small premium, but the helmet mount can also be had on its own for about a tenner.

The lens is hooded at the top and at the bottom. I don't think this has a noticeable effect on overall beam shape, but it does help prevent you being blinded when riding out of the saddle. Side visibility is also helped - I'd rate it as reasonable rather than great, in that respect though.

One final point: the Volt 300 does tend to interfere with wireless cycle computers, even Cateye ones. It's the smallest light where I've had this problem; the manual recommends a minimum distance between light and computer.

Verdict

An excellent choice for commuters, with just about enough power for longer forays. Cartridge battery could be popular with any audaxers not running dynamos.

The light comparator

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Cateye Volt 300

Size tested: Black, Front light

Tell us what the light is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

The Volt300 is a USB rechargeable headlight that features quick-change cartridge battery and 300 lumen output in compact design. This light features five modes: High, Normal, Low, Hyper Constant and Flashing. The Volt300 can be mounted on or under the handlebars or on the helmet. Spare cartridge batteries, ideal for long rides and commuting, and charging cradle are available as add-on parts and can be changed safely and easily without any additional tools.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?

Dimension: 111.5 x 31.0 x 38.0 mm

Weight: 120 grams (light unit and battery)

Light source: High intensity white LED X1

Light output: 300lm

Run time:

High mode: approx 3hrs

Normal mode: approx 8hrs

Low mode: approx 18hrs

Hyper Constant mode: approx 11hrs

Flashing mode:

approx 60hrs

Battery:

Li-ion rechargeable battery (3.7V-2200mAh)

Recharge time: approx 6 hrs (USB2.0 recharge), 3 hrs via optional fast-charging cradle

Recharge/discharge number of times: about 300 times(until the rated capacity drops to 70%)

Other: Low battery indicator, lighting mode memory function. Helmet mount (optional)

Rate the light for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Solidly built yet not heavy - really good.

Rate the light for design and ease of use. How simple was the light to use?
 
8/10

Well thought-through design, one-button operation is simple. Double-click for flash is unusual, but not that hard to get used to.

Rate the light for the design and usability of the clamping system/s
 
10/10

Simple, lightweight and cheap. It works really well, is quick to fit and easy to adjust, all without tools. Basically about as close to perfect as I've yet seen.

Rate the light for waterproofing. How did it stand up to the elements?
 
9/10

No issues during the (very wet) test period.

Rate the light for battery life. How long did it last? How long did it take to recharge?
 
8/10

Given the lack of weight and reasonably powerful output, battery life is very respectable.

Rate the light for performance:
 
8/10

Relatively narrow beam works well on the road - wouldn't be much use off it. Just about perfect as a commuter, and on a dry night is enough to see by further afield.

Rate the light for durability:
 
9/10

In my experience Cateye stuff is really reliable. No issues during test and I'd expect this to last for a good while. When the battery eventually wears out, you can just get another one.

Rate the light for weight, if applicable:
 
9/10
Rate the light for value:
 
8/10

Price is more than fair; most lights with similar output on our big test were more expensive.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the light

Light weight and how easy it is to switch from one bike to another. Reasonable battery life and plenty of warning when it's getting low.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light

Not much. For serious dark-night riding, I would want few more lumens

Did you enjoy using the light? Yes.

Would you consider buying the light? Yes.

Would you recommend the light to a friend? Yes.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 35  Height: 6  Weight: 78kg

I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute  My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,

 

Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels.  His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding. 

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